The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Prior to the one-loaf mystery result of my last post, the openest crumb I've gotten from the BBA pain de champagne recipe was a few weeks ago when I modified the recipe to use a dose of the KA levain du jour (dried levain starter), the mild version. I basically made the sponge from this starter as per the instructions that come with it, but made sure the amounts of eveything in the end would total to the same as BBA recipe using the pate fermentee as usual. A second alteration I made was to put most of the rest of the flour (including the whole wheat) into a soaker. The end result was this:

Because I'd changed two different things at once, I wasn't sure if it was the levain or the soaker or both that produced the opener crumb. So I did another batch a few days later with no levain, but with the soaker. The result was the typical crumb I get from this recipe (which has improved a bit over time, as I've pushed the hydration a little, improved my kneading technique, and switched from my somewhat alkaline tap water to bottled water). Interesting thing about this batch though. It had the slight tart tang to it, just as if I had used the levain! I assume that by chance either my pate fementee or my soaker picked up some good beasties...perhaps there were some floating around left over from the levain. Maybe I should start making a point of not cleaning my kneading board!

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I made two batches of bread in slightly different variations on the Pain de champagne from Reinhard's Bread Baker's Apprentice, and the results are quite different.

I'm working with the T55 Clone from NYBakers right now, and that's the bulk of the flour in both of these batches, with a little whole wheat added to one, and a little rye added to the other. The whole wheat is Anson Mills' Red Fife Bread Flour (Red Fife is an heirloom wheat, North America's preferred bread wheat in the 19th century), and the rye is Anson Mills' Abruzzi Rye Flour (another heirloom grain, from the colonial era, ground somewhat coarsely--they don't explicitly call it a whole rye, but I have the sense it might be, or approach it). In each case only about 7-8% of the flour that went into the recipe, so I'm not sure how significant the variety used really is.

Besides the whole wheat vs rye, the other difference was I added a little more water to the wheat batch. I started from a double batch of pate fermentee (100% T55), and the rest of the flour for each recipe in a soaker at room temperature. I would have liked the soakers to go 24 hours, but I probably used them after around 15 hours. I also proofed the wheat loaf on a peel (on top of the oven to raise it from fridge temp and proof it at the same time) and the rye loaf in a banneton (tipped so the load kind of nestled in the corner, since the banneton was too big for it) not on the oven so it would be behind the other loaf and ready when the wheat loaf was done baking.

When kneading the wheat batch I became concerned the dough was too firm. I like to push the hydration on this recipe, which opens up the crumb a bit. So I wet my hands a few times, and sprinkled little water on the dough as I kneaded. I didn't think I added very much, but the dough got quite slack, so perhaps I added more than I realized. This made me cautious about doing the same to the rye batch, and I decided to add no extra water to that at all, as it was already slightly stickier. This was all done on Friday.

Pictured are the second loaf from each batch which I baked today. (BTW, the color difference of the crumb is if anything more pronounced than in the photo, the rye noticably darker.) I baked the first loaf of each on Friday, and they had much the same in shape as these (the wheat much more flattened out), and like these, the crumb of the wheat was opener. But tonight's wheat loaf's crumb was WAY opener than Friday's. The crumb on Friday's wheat loaf was comparable to the opener crumbs I've gotten from this recipe without a levain, but I've never gotten anything like the huge irregular holes of today's loaf except the one time I added a levain to it.

Certainly the extra hydration explains the bigger crumb in the wheat loaf vs the rye. Perhaps the grain difference contributes too, though I'm not sure how much impact that 7-8% has. But the difference between Friday and today is surprising to me. I typically bake some of my loaves a day or two later with the dough resting in the refridgerator. It's never made much a difference before. One thing I did do differently this time, was I kneaded the dough a little bit after taking it out of the fridge, then shaped it. Could that have done it? Does anyone ever knead after a retardation between the first ferment and proofing?



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Here's loaf number two which after shaping went into the fridge, came out 24 hours later and proofed for an hour before baking. Pretty similar to the last one.

(Apologies for the terrible picture...I only managed a couple of attempts before my batteries died and I was stuck with trying to adjust an over-exposed flash shot.)

That extra bit in the front is the last bit of yesterday's loaf...I'd forgotten there was still a piece in my bag which I'd brough back from work.

(P.S. I've just color-corrected the image to show the yellowish crumb (yes the color of the stone it's on is yellowish also)

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I made the pugliese recipe from Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice yesterday. The flours I used were the NYB Type 55 Clone, and KA Extra Fancy Durum, in about an 11 oz / 6 oz ratio, counting the all-55 biga made the day before. I didn't bother with the optional mashed potatoes. It came out pretty well, resembling the picture in the book, maybe the holes not quite as large on average, but close. The next day the interior had even receded from the crust as in Reinhart's picture (it's always struck me as a little odd he didn't use a picture of a fresh one). Unfortunately I didn't take a picture but there's a second loaf from the batch in the fridge so I'll get a shot of that one once I bake it.

The color was slightly yellowish from the durum. The texture was quite good, and it tasted fine, but I can't say the flavor impressed me all that much. It seemed pretty plain, and whatever nuance the semolina added, I wasn't able to detect it.

A few bobbles along the way:

The dirrections to mix it the bowl for 5-7 minutes didn't really appeal to me. I enjoy kneading by hand and am not afraid of sticky doughs, so I took it out and kneaded it (with the French lift, slap, and fold method that you see Bertinet and other french baker's use). The kneading went well, the dough wasn't unmanageable, even though I'd been on the generous side with the water, adding at least the 9 ounces and probably a little extra in the biga as well). However after only a couple of minutes of kneading, suddenly it seemed like the dough started losing cohesion. It had been coming together but suddenly it became looser and wanted to stick to the board and come apart in my hands instead of folding properly. So I stopped. I figured a few minutes of such kneading was probably equal to the 6-8 minutes of bowl mixing, so I proceeded with the rest of the instructions (a few rounds of 30 minutes rest plus stretch and fold treatment).

Now I understand durum can encourage gluten to break down, so I'm tempted to blame that. However I should mention that something similar happened when I kneaded the biga, though maybe not as quickly and it was perhaps less pronounced. Is this something to do with the 55 clone? Or does this tend to happen with very wet doughs?

Shaping was a bit tricky...despite using plenty of flour the dough kept wanting to stick to my hands so I didn't feel confident in getting a tight cloak.

I was running out of time at the end (had a birthday gathering to attend) so I didn't proof the loaf as long as I would have liked. I don't think it quite reached 1 1/2 size, though I guess it was close enough.

None of these bobbles seemed to hurt the end result much.

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Here is a picture of my jury-rigged cloche. Not pretty but it works quite well.

It is a La Creuset round dutch oven (enameled cast-iron, I'm not sure the size) over a Sassafras "Deep Dish Pizza and Pie Baker" (ceramic), upside-down. Someone gave me this as a gift years ago and I've hardly used it until now as I'm not a deep dish pizza fan and can't imagine baking a pie in that thing.

Note that the handles of the dutch oven are not flush with the top, but the stick below the level of the rim slightly (above when right side up) so this won't work unless the deck is raised and just the right size like this pizza pan. It's sheer luck that these worked together so perfectly.

I started out using quarry tiles, with an enormous terra cotta flowerpot as the top (hole plugged with wadded up aluminum foil), but I worried that the spaces between the tiles would let steam out and defeat the purpose of the cloche. Also the flower pot is unweildy and has no handles. I've left the quarry tiles in place under the pan, but I'm not sure if they contribute anything.

The only downside is it only fits one boule at a time and you have to have decent aim delivering the loaf from the peel. I've had a couple of loaves wind up squashed on one side (which didn't impair their taste or texture, but they looked a bit wonky).

The pizza baker has developed some cracks, but I've patched them with high temperature silicone (hoping nothing toxic is coming out...I've only patched from the other side, not the baking surface). While the silicone was drying, I switched to a metal pizza pan (also upside down...and larger) with the flower pot. The couple of loaves I baked on that wound up burned slighly on one side which has never happened with the stone which always produces evenly baked loaves.

I just recieved a baker's stone from NY Bakers and intend to make myself a couple of terra cotta cloches (I'm also a potter) to replace this setup eventually, probably in different shapes and sizes. I wonder how closely the cloche needs to fit around the bread to work? Would too much space make it less effective?


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A quick phone cam pic of my latest pain de campagne (over the kitchen sink where the light is bright).

Scoring was easier and smoother than usual this time. (Perhaps I've been over-proofing and didn't this time?)

Does that expansion of the slash look excessive? Is there such a thing as too much oven-spring?

Still hot, haven't opened it up yet.

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